Unit 8200 installation on Mount Avital
30 septembre 2011 Par IsraelValley Desk
La magie d’un chiffre qui fait vibrer les surdoués du net en Israël : "L'unité 8200".
Le nouveau d’état-major de Tsahal Benny Gantz Un excellent article sur l’Unité 8200 est paru dans Haaretz (voir ci-dessous). Très célèbre en Israël pour son efficacité, les unités 8200 (unité de collecte et de décodage d’information, d’ingénierie informatique et d’électronique) sont submergées de demandes de jeunes qui veulent y contribuer. Seuls les surdoués y ont finalement accès.
La grande spécialité de cette unité : essaimer des innovations du secteur militaire vers le civil. Gadi Mazor, le PDG d’Onset, entreprise spécialisée dans la reconnaissance vocale, ne cache pas qu’il a passé plusieurs années dans “la très secrète unité 8-200 de Tsahal”. C’est de cette même « université » du renseignement que sont sortis les fondateurs de Nice Systems, société spécialisée dans la numérisation de données.
ISRAELVALLEY PLUS By Yuval Dror , Ha’artez
"In recent years, the number 8200 has come to signify the prospect of opening doors for Israeli and foreign investors. This military unit is the most important one for the Israeli economy, for it is this unit that produced Shlomo Dovrat, who sold Oshap Technologies to Sunguard for $210 million; Ehud Weinstein, who sold his shares in Libit Signal Processing for $40 million; the Zisapel brothers, who sold and floated more than ten companies for hundreds of millions of dollars; and Didi Arazi, who set up Nice Systems.
Cautious estimates indicate that in the past few years, unit 8200 veterans have set up some 30 to 40 high-tech companies, including 5 to 10 that were floated on Wall Street. This correlation between serving in the intelligence unit 8200 and starting successful high-tech companies is not coincidental:
Many of the technologies in use around the world and developed in Israel were originally military technologies and were developed and improved by unit veterans.
The unit’s commander, Brigadier General B., attended a ceremony Monday where prizes were awarded to the winners of the CodeGuru competition, involving some 2,000 high school students from all over the country. The computer challenge contest was rumored to have been sponsored by the 8200 unit, together with the high-tech company, Aladdin.
Although 8200 never confirmed that it was a sponsor, its human resources department set up a booth at the competition. 8200 representatives were more than happy to help the students in attendance fill out forms about their “suitability for development jobs in the computer field.”
Brigadier General B., from his seat in the last row, applauded the winner and left at the end of the ceremony.
The reason why the commander of one of the army’s busiest units took the time to attend a civilian ceremony is not top secret: The IDF is losing in its struggle with high-tech and start-up companies, as more talented people prefer to earn a fat salary and options than to serve in the unit. Public relations opportunities like the CodeGuru competition help the unit to keep competitive with the high-tech companies’head-hunting.
B., 44, started his military career in a pilot training course. “After a few months, they said goodbye to me and I switched to the Sayeret Matkal (elite reconnaissance unit),” he says.
After serving in the Sayeret, he was discharged and only after six years as a civilian – following the request of the current deputy chief of staff, Moshe Ya’alon, who was then the commanderrnof the Sayeret Matkal – did B. re-enlist as the deputy commander of the unit.
“He promised that it would only be for one year. That year has gone on until now,” says B.
In 1988, B. was offered the option of switching to intelligence and since then, he has worked his way up in the 8200 unit. Three years ago, he took command of the intelligence corps’ elite unit, which is referred to in foreign reports as “the central [intelligence] gathering unit.”
According to B., “our areas of operation are very interesting and complex and create a real challenge for those who serve here. No civilian company can offer such a wide variety of challenges as our unit offers.”
B. therefore refuses to accept the claim made last August by the head of the personnel directorate, Major General Yehuda Segev that “we are in the middle of a war. The civilian economy has
gone all out.”
B. sees the current fight to attract the top talent as a competition, not a battle. “We are managing to keep in the unit those whom we favor and surveys we conducted among our soldiers found that salary isn’t everything.” B. believes that challenge, personal fulfillment, interest, promotion track, work environment and service conditions are no less important than the high salaries offered by high-tech companies.
“It should be said to the chief of staff’s credit, that he understands that at least as far as work environment and service conditions are concerned, there has to be progress,” he says. “The army, as a rule, understands that it has to invest special resources in technological manpower, that theyrnneed to get conditions, service plans, benefits.”
B. stresses that he does not feel that the members of his unit are rushing to join high-tech companies: “There is a natural flow from the army to civilian jobs, and even I wouldn’t wantrneveryone to remain in the unit. You have to remember that every year I get a new work force, that is young and better than their predecessors, and that is because, among other reasons, huge resources have been invested in finding and training a suitable work force.”
Nevertheless, B. also has some complaints about the high-tech companies. “The IDF units are the biggest generators in the country of technology personnel. Whoever grabs unripe people today, will pay the price tomorrow,” he says, adding that the only way to overcome the problem is to establish a balance between civilian and military life. “We are looking into ways of cooperating, reaching an understanding and creating joint programs for us and high-tech companies.”
At this stage, he says that there are still no practical proposals for such joint programs, but that various ideas are being reviewed with the aim of benifiting all parties, including and especially the Israeli economy and national security.
When asked how it is possible to attract so many people to a unit where no one is permitted to say what it does, B. smiles and replies: “The reputation of the unit’s veterans in creating high-tech companies gives us great ratings. It makes young people want to serve here.”
B. adds that the unit tries to reach out to the public, not only for recruiting purposes: “We promote projects for studying Arabic in schools. While we hope to benefit from the results, the projects are for the net benefit of the community, such as the Yachdav (together) project, in which 250 soldiers and officers from the unit volunteer to tutor and mentor children having trouble with their studies.”
The CodeGuru competition is a similar public relations venture in the spirit of the unit – a computer challenge where students must achieve the goal at all costs.
“Unlike civilian companies, we have to stick to missions at all costs,” says B. “The prevailing atmosphere here lets us use work methods that are not acceptable everywhere in the IDF. We allow free thinking and creativity in order to allow the technology people to deal with their task.”
A senior commander in the unit with a master’s degree in computer science admitted that his subordinates are more talented than he: "I’ll never say to them, here’s the problem and solve it this way – because then I would be restricting them to the limits of my knowledge.